Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Word "Marriage" is a Benefit of Marriage

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the right to marry belongs to all of us, whether we choose to marry someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. The California Supreme Court went farther, and they were right to do so. They said that marriage is a basic human right, in Massachusetts, in California, anywhere.

What's more, they put their finger on the fact that nothing substitutes for marriage. The word itself is so clear and confers such legitimacy that if you recognize a couple's union in any other way, you are calling it a second-class relationship. Government is in no position to do that!

As I wrote four years ago, in a letter the Boston Globe declined to publish:

The Supreme Judicial Court made the right decision in the Goodridge case. Marriage is the only way to ensure the equal rights of gay and lesbian couples and their children.

The word "marriage" is itself one of the rights and privileges of the married state. As a man married to a woman, if the woman I love and make my life with goes into the hospital, I do not have to explain myself in order to be in her room. I am not challenged to lay out our whole relationship for other people's judgment in order to take part in medical decisions. The word "marriage" makes the case for me. I simply say "I am her husband," and everybody knows what legal rights they must afford me, and what to expect from me.

But if a woman who loves and makes her life with a woman walks in to the same hospital and says "I am her wife," until now, nobody could know what would happen. Each administrator, each doctor, each nurse, each orderly could decide whether or not that couple had any rights he or she was bound to respect.

The ruling in Goodridge holds out the promise that this gross unfairness will end in Massachusetts. It is long past time. Now our legislators have to find the courage to let equality become the law of the land. I urge all state senators and representatives to vote against amending the constitution.

And now I urge the California voters to be equally fair and just.

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